Free Press readers speak on Gov. Ralph S. Northam

2/8/2019, 6 a.m.
Does Gov. Ralph S. Northam have no human decency? The blackface and the Ku Klux Klan outfit each alone speak ...

Does Gov. Ralph S. Northam have no human decency? The blackface and the Ku Klux Klan outfit each alone speak of racism. Shown together, they speak clearly of racist intent.

This was in 1984.

Where was Gov. Northam’s family in the 1960s? Did they not witness via television or in newspapers the horrors that people fighting for civil rights were being subjected to? Four little girls were blown up in a church by the KKK. A white Episcopal priest was gunned down in Montgomery, Ala., by the KKK because he was with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s group. Civil rights workers were murdered and buried in an earthen dam. Other civil rights marchers were beaten up on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was murdered in Memphis, Tenn., by the same type of evil racists.

Did Gov. Northam’s family instill in him these same evil racist ideals?

Now in 2019, Gov. Northam wants to have a conversation about race. The only conversation that Gov. Northam needs to have with the people of Virginia is the one in which he tells us that he has resigned as governor of Virginia!

Naomi Gayle Saunders


“We believe in the ability of people to grow and change. We have seen it countless times in our Dismantling Racism Workshops and in the relationships we have built across the state. After considering Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s actions and apologies, we believe the reflection and internal work to make that change possible is best done as a private citizen and not in the state’s highest office. Gov. Northam should resign.

“While we have counted Gov. Northam as an ally and champion on many of the pressing issues facing Virginia, Gov. Northam owes us more than inadequate apologies. He owes us action.

Gov. Northam should take a step back from trying to save his political career, spend time learning from the people of color his actions have hurt and make clear how he will grow and change from this experience.

“Virginia has a long history of systemic racism — history that reveals itself still today in our systems, institutions and laws. As a statewide non-partisan grassroots organization, we will continue the important work of deep organizing for racial justice — bringing people together to build a more just Virginia.”



The writer is chairperson of the State Governing Board of Virginia Organizing. This statement is on behalf of the organization’s board.

The Richmond Association of Black Social Workers strongly denounces Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s deplorable behavior wearing blackface, regardless of when it occurred. His actions are offensive to the black community now and to our ancestors who were brought to this country 400 years ago in shackles and chains against their will, which is arguably the most detrimental factor in the systematic dismantlement of black families that we see today.

His actions are offensive to our ancestors who were raped, hung, castrated and ripped from their families. His actions are offensive to our ancestors who were terrorized and hunted by slave patrols. His actions are offensive to our ancestors who were subjected to horrible medical experimentations by doctors and other scientific racists who wanted to do nothing more than to further their own self-interests, his actions are offensive to our ancestors who endured the wrath of Jim Crow by being hosed down and beaten by racist police while fighting for their humanity. His actions are also offensive to the descendants who continue to carry the intergenerational trauma transmitted from those experiences.

In the wake of the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans being brought to this country, the black community and the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia are owed more than a guilt-laced apology. We are owed an explanation of how the governor plans to atone for his behavior, which should include the identification of all persons complicit in the generation and publication of that photo.

We also are owed an example of moral leadership, which should ultimately include him stepping down.

On a daily basis, many black people in the Commonwealth continue to face disenfranchisement from fair and adequate housing, living wage and job opportunities, access to optimal medical care, quality education and true justice in the criminal justice system. His apology does not begin to address the institutional racism that that symbolizes.

We want more. We need more. We deserve better.


ASHLEY WADDELL, member and national member-at-large

DARYL FRASER, president

Richmond Association of Black Social Workers